by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley softball team spent more than nine hours at Adair Park Saturday as it was competing in the gold bracket of the Greater Kansas City Softball Tournament Saturday.
The Eagles made it in the gold bracket after defeating Chillicothe and Pleasant Hill on Friday. They did not win the tournament, but Grain Valley picked up two signature wins on its way to a third-place finish.
Grain Valley opened the gold bracket with an impressive 4-2 victory in 11 innings against last year’s Class 5 state runner-up Lee’s Summit North in a game that lasted longer than 2 1/2 hours. Head coach Garrett Ogle admitted his team went into the semifinal game against Liberty fatigued. In that game, the Eagles fell 6-3 in six innings as the time limit expired.
“We just came out flat and lost a lot of energy from the previous game,” Ogle said. “We just didn’t have it. That’s no excuse to not do what we are capable of doing.”
In the third-place game, the time limit aided the Eagles as they held off a furious comeback from Lee’s Summit West, a team that made the Class 5 sectional round in 2020, during a 10-7 win in five innings.
“I think our girls played great,” Ogle said. “We had girls step up and play in new roles they may not have before.”
The difference maker was an eight-run top of the second inning for Grain Valley (4-1). The Eagles almost came away with no runs as they had the bases loaded with two outs. No. 9 hitter Camryn Bown had arguably the biggest hit of the game when she hit a soft line drive down the right-field line to clear the bases and give her team a 3-0 lead.
“We put her (in the No. 9 spot in the lineup) for a reason because she can do a lot of damage there,” Ogle said of Bown.
Right fielder Mikayla Chairez followed with an RBI single on a sharp ground ball through the right side. After Lauren Parker singled and BriLeigh Sims was hit by a pitch from Titan starter Taylor Parnell, designated player and 2020 all-state selection Avery Huffman blasted a grand slam over the center-field fence to blow it open and make it 8-0.
“I really needed it, I did really bad the rest of the day,” Huffman said of her grand slam. “We needed a win like this and needed to just hit.”
Huffman finished the game 3-for-3 from the dish.
“It was nice to see her get hot at the plate,” Ogle said of Huffman. “We know she can be explosive at the plate and know she has the potential to do that at any time.”
West scored one run in the bottom of the third before Grain Valley tacked one more on in the fourth when Sims scored on a double steal after Huffman was purposely caught in a run down between first and second base.
Grain Valley’s last run came in the fifth on an RBI single from Parker, who had two hits in the contest. West scored three runs each in the fourth and fifth but it wasn’t enough to knock off the Eagles.
Mackenzie Keller was the winning pitcher as she gave up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and struck out three.
“She’s got great stuff and she’s an awesome competitor and an even better person,” Ogle said of Keller. “She earned her start today. She did a great job pitching.”